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Capitals beat Red Wings in shootout to regain first place


Capitals beat Red Wings in shootout to regain first place

Post-game analysis of the Capitals’ 3-2 shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night at Verizon Center:

How it happened: Alex Ovechkin was an absolute beast in the third period, drawing a holding penalty on Mike Green and a hooking penalty on Brendan Smith before finally scoring against the Red Wings on his 28th shot of the season against them in three games. That sent the game into a very entertaining overtime, where each team failed to score on the power play. The Caps won it quickly in the shootout, getting goals from T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov, while getting consecutive stops by Braden Holtby on Gustav Nyqvist and Pavel Datsyuk.   

What it means: The Capitals vaulted past the New York Rangers and into first place in the Metropolitan Division with 40 points, one more than the Rangers. The Caps have played two fewer games. The Caps also improved to 7-0 following a loss this season.  

Quick milestones: Justin Williams netted his 600th NHL point just 43 seconds into the game when he pitchforked a centering pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard. Marcus Johansson netted the other assist for his 200th NHL point. Williams recorded his first NHL point on Oct. 5, 2000 when he put his own rebound past Vancouver goalie Felix Potvin as member of the Flyers. It came on Williams’ second NHL shift on a line with left wing John LeClair and  center Keith Primeau. That was also the NHL debut of Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Williams had a goal and two assists in that game. The Sedins did not record a point. 

Save of the game: With 3:22 remaining in the second period and the Red Wings leading 2-1, Jason Chimera had a golden opportunity to tie the game but fired into the right pad of Jimmy Howard, who sprawled to make the save, losing his stick in the process.   

Oops: Dmitry Orlov’s defensive zone turnover 3:16 into the second period led to Tomas Jurco’s go-ahead goal. Orlov arrived at the goal line in time to swipe the puck away from forward Luke Glendening, but he completely missed the puck, allowing Joakim  Andersson to find Henrik Zetterberg alone in front for Zetterberg’s fifth of the season.

Line shuffling: Midway through the second period Barry Trotz flipped centers Jay Beagle and Michael Latta, using Beagle between fourth line left wing Brooks Laich and right wing Andre Burakovsky, and Latta between third-liners Jason Chimera and Tom Wilson. A few shifts later Tortz went back to his original line combinations.

Thanks, Greenie: During a break in the first period the Capitals showed a video tribute to Mike Green, who spent 10 seasons and 575 games in Washington. Green responded by applauding the fans. Before the game he shared his thoughts on playing in Washington.

On seeing Washington fans embrace the Capitals:

“I was just a piece of the puzzle, really. I didn’t do anything spectacular besides enjoy playing the game here. We enjoyed when the fans would come out and watch. It’s exciting to see how far it’s come since I first started.”

On his first season in Washington in 2005-06: 

“I remember my first couple of games at the MCI Center, there were maybe 6 or 8,000 fans and now I know they sell out most nights, if not every night, and that’s quite an accomplishment for the organization.”

On returning to D.C.: “I obviously spent a great deal of time in the area and some of the things that I’m most proud of are the off-ice stuff as far as charities. If I see kids with my jerseys or whatnot, that always brings a smile to my face.”

On failing to win a Stanley Cup as a Capital: “That was always our ultimate goal. It’s never easy to win in this league, that’s for sure. We always took pride in the journey to try to get there, including myself. We had a lot of fun doing it but my time kind of just ran out there and I wish them all the best.”

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Braden Holtby's Game 3 performance brings clarity to Caps' goalie situation

Braden Holtby's Game 3 performance brings clarity to Caps' goalie situation

As the postseason began, the refrain from Barry Trotz has been how confident he is in both netminders and that the decision on who will start would be on a game-by-game basis. That tone changed sharply on Wednesday in the wake of Braden Holtby's Game 3 performance.

On a conference call with the media, Trotz was asked Wednesday if Holtby would start Game 4.

"I don't think there's any doubt about that," he said.

That type of clarity regarding who the Caps netminder is refreshing at this point as uncertainty has followed each of the first two games of the series.

The decision to sit Holtby in favor of Philipp Grubauer originally was not an easy one. After going through a tough six-week stretch from February to March, Holtby yielded the crease to Grubauer. The German netminder played well down the stretch and Trotz elected to stay with the hot hand to start the playoffs.

"[Holtby] was obviously probably a little disappointed but at the same time he's a total pro and our conversation was good," Trotz said. "The one thing that stands out to me, he says, if I get a chance to come back in the net I'll stop the puck. But I'm in. I understand and I'm ready if you need me."

Hotlby certainly was ready on Tuesday.

Grubauer performance admirably in Game 1 and Game 2, but he could not get the big save when the team needed it as Trotz lamented on Sunday.

The Caps got a number of those key saves from Holtby in Game 3, his first start of the series, as he turned aside 33 of the 35 shots he faced. To be fair, he was bailed out by the post four times in the game, but for the most part, it was a strong performance. When the backup plays well in a loss, it still generates questions on who will play going forward. When the starter comes back into the game and plays well, it erases all doubt as to who the starter will be going forward.

For the first time all series, the question of who will start is finally an easy one for Trotz to answer.

Trotz is also hopeful that Holtby has not only recovered from his struggles, but has improved his game because of them.

"You see it around the league with top goaltenders, they have some of these periods where they have to reset or refine themselves a little bit because it tests you," Trotz said. "This league test you all the time. It changes all the time and you have to change with it a little bit. I think it forced [Holtby] to move forward a little bit, rethink some things and recalibrate his game to the game that's being played in the National Hockey League right now.

"I think it's been a good process for him. I think it's just going to make him a more complete goaltender going forward, a more complete person going forward. It says a lot about  Braden."


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3 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 3

3 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 3

Down 0-2 in the series, the Capitals desperately needed a win Tuesday over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 3.

They gave up a 1-0 and a 2-1 lead, but this time it was Washington who came away with the 3-2 victory at Nationwide Arena.

Here's how the Caps won Game 3 and got right back in the series.

Three Reasons Why The Capitals Won Game 3

1. Two slashes on Jakub Vrana

Columbus apparently has something against Vrana because the Blue Jackets spent much of the first period hacking the limbs of the young Capitals defenseman. It finally caught up to Columbus in the second period.

Brandon Dubinsky gave Vrana a two-hander that broke Vrana’s stick that drew a slashing penalty. Just 1:07 later, Vrana drew another slashing penalty, this time from Ryan Murray giving Washington a two-man advantage.

John Carlson scored just 28 seconds later to put the Caps up 2-1.

2. Braden Holtby

Pierre-Luc Dubois scored a goal in the second period that Holtby should have had. Other than than, Holtby was stellar in his first playoff start of 2018.

The Caps were sloppy all night long, giving up numerous turnovers that turned into Grade A opportunities for Columbus.

Holtby saved his teammates' bacon time and time and time again with big save after big save. He was easily the Caps’ best player on the ice and his performance should remove any doubt as to who is the team’s playoff starter is for this team going forward.

3. An ugly game-winner

Time after time, Sergei Bobrovsky gave up some big rebounds that trickled harmlessly away with no Capitals player anywhere near it. Simply put, Washington did not get much pressure in front of the net in Game 3.

When they needed a goal, however, it does not get much uglier than Lars Eller’s overtime winner. The Caps rushed in on a 3-on-2. Brett Connolly took a quick shot which Bobrovsky easily stopped, but the rebound was up for grabs. Zach Werenski tried to clear the puck away, but it hit Eller as he crashed the net, hit back off Werenski, hit off the toe of Eller and into the net.

The lesson here is that if Bobrovsky is going to give up those rebounds, the Caps need to be in a position to take advantage.